Indian Govt. may fix ceiling of Gift, Giveaways worth Rs. 1,000/- for Doctors, Chemists

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 Move to check unethical practices by Pharma Industry

Indian Govt. may fix ceiling of Gift, Giveaways
worth Rs. 1,000/- for Doctors, Chemists

Ethical committee will investigate and take decisions
on complaints of violation

NEW DELHI: Failure by the Indian Pharmaceutical Trade and Industry to comply with the voluntary code to ensure ethical marketing practice has now forced the Government of India to come up with strict measures and mandatory code of ethics. The Pharma industry is accused of providing expensive gifts to the doctors, chemists to increase their sales. The measures being contemplated include imposing a ceiling of Rs 1,000 on the value of such gifts and giveaways. A blanket ban on expensive freebies such as cruise or vacation tickets and sponsored educational conferences and seminars that can be means of making payments and offering benefits is also being contemplated.

The Rs 1,000 cap is considered sufficient for drug manufacturers to offer items intended to ensure brand recall. The department of pharmaceuticals (DoP) is in the final stages of issuing an executive order making Uniform Code for Pharmaceutical Marketing Practices (UCPMP) mandatory for the drug manufacturing industry. The order will cover doctors, chemists and hospitals and the states.

The health ministry and Medical Council of India have been consulted on the decision. Once the executive order is issued by DoP, the code will be binding on all the stakeholders and any violation of the norms will attract punishment and penalty. "It can vary from a warning to cancellation of license depending upon the extent of violation," the official said.

The proposal also includes suggestions to form an ethical committee which will investigate and take decisions if there are complaints of violation. " At present, the marketing code is "voluntary" and the industry is expected to "self-regulate" by adopting it. However, official sources said there are rampant violations of the code and the government felt the need for "stringent" norms to monitor unethical practices.

The Indian pharmaceutical market, pegged at sales of over Rs 1 lakh crore annually, is one of the largest and fastest growing markets worldwide. Since the market is highly fragmented, it has been a challenge for the government and regulators to curb unethical practices, which in turn, are growing rapidly in the absence of strong regulation.

In November 2014, the DoP had issued the first draft of UCPMP for a period of six months starting from January 1, 2015. It was suggested that the code would be reviewed and, if the industry fails to self-regulate, it will be made mandatory. According to the proposal, a medical practitioner will have to bear his expenses if he is participating as a "delegate" in a conference or seminar organized by a Pharma company. Companies are also barred from extending hospitality to any doctor, healthcare professional or their family.

According to Indian Health officials the permissible value of Rs 1,000 for a gift has been fixed to allow firms to ensure the recall value of their brands. "We do not feel there is a need to use a higher value gift to ensure brand recall, which is often cited by firms as a reason for distributing freebies," the official said. Apart from pharmaceutical companies, the code also covers retailers, distributors, wholesalers and doctors. It will also cover the whole supply chain for medical devices along with medicines.